News

Definitely one to watch: ‘American Freethought’

Definitely one to watch: ‘American Freethought’

PRACTICALLY from the day it was concocted, the cult of Christianity was seized upon by a dysfunctional assortment of prigs, prodnoses, prudes, godwits, fussbudgets, fanatics, monomaniacs, busybodies, snoops, meddlers and the mentally deranged to lay down lunatic rules and order people to obey them.

Those that refused to kowtow to the intolerant, idiotic Christian creed faced cruel punishments over subsequent centuries. The founder of the Freethinker, G W Foote, was but one,  having been jailed for blasphemy.

The best known of these zealots in modern Britain was Mary Whitehouse, who waged a war on the “permissive society”, and  brought Gay News to trial for blasphemy, winning her private prosecution.

But in the previous century, I discovered a few years back, America had its very own Mary Whitehouse, one Anthony Comstock, creator of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, an institution dedicated to controlling public morality.

This godly reptile, with the help of pious supporters, slithered his way into a position of enormous power, and was actually appointed a special agent of the United States Postal Service, with police powers up to and including the right to carry a weapon. With this power he zealously prosecuted those he suspected of criminal acts, in particular the distribution of “objectionable” material.

This prompted me to write a piece about him in the April, 2008, printed edition of the Freethinker.

A great supporter of his was another Christian crazy – a Baptist named Samuel Colgate. Yes, that Colgate, founder of the soap and toothpaste empire who was President of the Society for the Suppression of Vice.

Religious tyrants Colgate, left, and Comstock

Religious tyrants Colgate, left, and Comstock

I learned of Comstock via a book published in 2007 by Roderick Bradford, D M Bennett, The Truth Seeker. Bennett, founder of The Truth Seeker magazine, fell foul of Comstick, and wound up in prison for 13 months (I blogged the details here, and in May 2008 the Freethinker carried a review of the book).

Later Bradford made a movie about Bennett which was awarded Grand Prize for Best Feature Length Film at the 2011 Portland Humanist Film Festival. You can access it here.

Roderick Bradford

Roderick Bradford

Well, today I was delighted to learn from Bradford that he has just unveiled his most ambition project to date – a riveting four-hour documentary film series on the history of secularism and censorship in America. The executive producer of American Freethought is Tom Flynn, and it has been produced in association with the Council for Secular Humanism.

Frederic C Rich, author of the chilling Christian Nation: A Novel, is quoted on the Vimeo site as saying:

Rod Bradford’s film on the development of the American Freethought movement, and Thomas Paine’s seminal role, is a comprehensive, accurate, and illuminating work, masterfully told. It tells a story long overlooked, especially in academia, and the public is served well in bringing America’s complete history to life.

If you have any free time on your hands, I urge you to watch this fascinating and illuminating documentary by following this link.

12 Responses to “Definitely one to watch: ‘American Freethought’”

  1. charlie says:

    Barry,
    A very, very huge THANK YOU for this post and the links.

  2. Barry Duke says:

    My pleasure, Charlie. I have enormous regard for Rod and his masterful approach to the subject, and it made my day when I received an email from him alerting me to this latest project. He and the production team have done the secular movement proud.

    This documentary deserves a wide audience and many, many plaudits. It should be sceened in every school in the US, and well beyond its borders.

    And if it infuriates those who twist the truth about America being a country based on Christian principles, all to the good!

  3. Brigit Clarke Smith says:

    Roderick Bradshaw’s research and work are unmatched.

  4. Newspaniard says:

    Amazon don’t sell it (UK nor .com) nor was I able to find it on Ebay. I have written to Mr. Bradford for suggestions. I suppose its the usual creepy Amazon sucking up to the wrong people which prevents them from marketing it.

  5. Brian Jordan says:

    It’s a bit after Comstock’s time but I remember chortling as a teenerer over a book about American censorship of comics. A prime example was a drawing of a superhero. In emphasising the muscles of his upper arm, the artist had included some lines in the shape of a Y. This was interpreted as a depiction of the pelvic Bregions of a woman, and duly banned!

  6. Barry Duke says:

    If you are referring to the book, D M Bennett, The Truth Seeker, Newspaniard, it’s available directly from Prometheus:

    http://www.prometheusbooks.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=176

    or Amazon:

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/search/ref=sr_adv_b/?search-alias=stripbooks&unfiltered=1&field-isbn=1591024307&tag=wwwprometheus-20

  7. Barry Duke says:

    The Comstickians are alive and well, Brian Jordan. Check out some classic children’s books banned in the US in recent years. Funniest was the banning of James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl 1999 by an elementary school in Texas (of course!) because it included the word “ass”.

    http://www.buzzfeed.com/spenceralthouse/classic-childrens-books-that-have-been-banned-in-america

  8. Paul Cook says:

    I found TheTtruth Seeker on UK amazon. It is £7.97 for kindle.

    I just put this :
    D.M. Bennett, The Truth Seeker

  9. Oy Vey says:

    Had a look at the banned books list. Barely credible! One or two of the literary criticisms I might agree with – but banning books? Where’s the book burning at?

  10. Newspaniard says:

    My mistake, I was looking for the DVD “American Freethought”.

  11. 1859 says:

    Thanks Barry – When you find a link to someone somewhere who sells the dvd I’lll certainly grab one.